Tag Archives: Rice

Peruvian in Downtown LA: Mo Chica (Hungry’s Food Reviews)

This is another one of my “should just be a Yelp review” because it could be short and it’s going to be negative but I want to talk about the subject more than usual because it’s Peruvian food. As a whole food culture, it has to be one of my favorites, if not my absolute favorite. It’s generally a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish food. The diversity in the dishes is unbelievable and the development of flavors is unparalleled. One of my go to dishes when in Peru was lomo saltado and I’ve had gallons on gallons of Inca Kola so now let’s talk about Mo Chica.

A few months ago, the LA Times published its list of 100 or so best restaurants in Los Angeles for the year. We were conveniently in Santa Monica for the long weekend at the time. To our dismay, many of the locations listed were very expensive and not places we frequented. Therefore, I arrogantly thought the list was garbage, a mere compilation of advertisements and favors. But how could I be a fair judge without trying the other places? I had to try one and conveniently that ended up being Mo Chica for a second late lunch on a Sunday afternoon. We had Sugarfish (sushi) and I was NOT full. Kai told us that Mo Chica was on the newly formed list and when I saw it was Peruvian, I did not hesitate.

Inside

Inside

Mo Chica actually reminded me of other New York City Peruvian restaurants that actually were not very good. It didn’t remind me of the good places in the Jersey ghettos and in Peru itself. Nevertheless, I ordered the lomo saltado for takeout. Orders come with two sides but the host informed me that they couldn’t give me sides since it was takeout and the price remained. I was so excited that I had no problem with that (I would regret that). While we were waiting, I saw an employee carrying a six-pack of Inca Kola to the bar. Inca Kola is the drink of Peru, literally, that is what the can says. It tastes like golden bubblegum soda. I told the host to throw that on the take out order so Alana could try some. Then I got the food and bill, so it was time to pay and eat.

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15 dollars for the lomo, 4 for the soda. Are you kidding? Four dollars for a can of soda? I can buy a six-pack in New Jersey for $2.50. I can get a two-liter bottle for a dollar! It’s even cheaper in Peru. I know you don’t have to import that stuff so how can it be so expensive? Crazy. And 15 for the lomo? Okay, but without the sides? This better be the best lomo that I’ve ever had. Well as you can see in the pictures, which were taken before I ate anything, I think they forgot half my food. It was the smallest portion of that dish I’ve ever gotten. And what I got wasn’t good! It was okay and they gave me very little rice! It felt like I was robbed.

Where's the rest of the rice?

Where’s the rest of the rice?

How can you ruin a dish like this? It’s basically onions, high quality beef, and french fries cooked in a pan with delicious flavors. Even in the bad areas of Lima, for a dollar, I got bigger portions of higher quality product. Safe to say that I have no interest in returning for the other dishes if they can’t get lomo right. And after seeing the portion sizes and prices of the other dishes, I really can’t see what reason I have to return anyways. For other LA locals that don’t know Peruvian food and get caught up in the trend, I hope you enjoy it and keep them in business. They seem like nice people and the service was good. We’ll just leave it at the fact that it doesn’t seem like Grandma and Mom made this food. It seems more like it was the cool son that cared about being trendy and looking fancy, not being authentic and full of flavor.

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Disappointing. Please find a GOOD Peruvian restaurant as in my opinion, it is probably the best ethnic cuisine there is. It has everything you need and want and more. Eating Peruvian food really is a great way to stay hungry and fit!

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The Japanese Taco Masters: Sunny Blue (Santa Monica, California)

During my time in school in South Korea, I found it very challenging to maintain my daily caloric intake of 10,000-12,000. One reason is the food is extremely healthy and calorically low. The second is that the servings are tiny compared to those in the United States. Finally, so much of the food is extremely spicy and very painful for me to eat because of my geographic tongue. The result was I first found out how to say, write, and read wrappers for food. The first words I learned were beef, chicken, tuna and spicy/hot.

I learned how to read the wrappers on a portable food called kimbap, or gimbap, or however you spell or say it. The g and k sound in Korean is one of the tricky ones to learn how to differentiate between when you learn the language. It’s pronounced kimbap, if you’re American. I lived on these… I mean I must have had at least 6-12 a day and they were not of the highest quality. They were typically from 7-11 or a local market similar to 7-11 depending on where I was. We had one of these markets in our residence hall on campus so I got all the ones I could from there. Typically, I would have the not spicy tuna with mayo. It gave me the protein I needed, wasn’t spicy, and had some extra calories from the mayo. It was good, it made me happy and it only led to me losing 30 pounds in Korea as opposed to maybe 40. That’s another story I’ll cover in the future when I talk about my fitness journey and goals. So why did I bother to tell you all this history… well this is why.

Tuna

Tuna

On Main Street in Santa Monica, you can find an amazing little food shop called Sunny Blue. Fit and I went there the first week they opened a few years ago and it was dead every day. The female owner, Keiko,  was nearly the only one working there but we frequented it every day during that week in Samo. Why? Because they served omusubi, or onigiri, or rice balls. These are the Japanese twin of my kimbaps and I was thrilled to find it. They are VERY similar and this location does not lack quality control and creating great flavor profiles. They make all of their omusubi fresh for you. The ingredients are prepared earlier but they are assembled to order, and freshly seasoned in the process.

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Over the past few years, they have gotten much more popular and now when we visit, the line is out the door. We are thrilled that they have seen such growth and success because they deserve it for their devotion to their craft. They also serve some traditional Japanese sodas, shrimp chips, and frozen yogurt. When we got the froyo when they first opened, it wasn’t quite the quality of YogurtLand nor did it match their level of omusubi, so we’ve never tried their froyo again. Nevertheless, Sunny Blue is a must stop-by food location in Los Angeles, and the brilliance is you can eat one whenever. I don’t care how full you are from lunch, each rice ball is a snack sized treat that can find its way to your stomach.

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From our most recent trip, yesterday, the menu has expanded to include daily specials and a long list of classic selections. Popular choices include: miso mushroom, hijike shitaki, tuna mayo, tokyo tori, curry chicken, miso beef, and more. Those are our favorites because of the lack of spice, but richness of other flavors. They are reasonably priced in the range of $2.50-$5.00 depending on what you get. I’ve actually never seen one for more than $4.50 so $3-4 is a more accurate range for the normal menu. PLUS, now they sell very cute t-shirts! Sunny Blue is a hungry and fit favorite. We even learned to make it ourselves so when we depart Santa Monica, we can somewhat resemble the deliciousness. It tastes delicious, is light on the wallet, and can definitely help you stay hungry and fit!

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Tuna

Tuna

Fresh Bell Pepper Stir Fry

We’ve done some other stir frys, like one with noodles. This time we chose to go with our Indian rice that we use. Stir fry should always be a go-to if you have fresh veggies in the house. This stir fry centers around bell peppers as I grabbed a bunch from the grocery for a great price. Easy to do, if you’re pressed for time at night, you could always chop them earlier on or the night before (I chopped them up before our push-muscle workout–sample here). This can be vegetarian or not, I added some chicken in for Chris, and I stayed with the veggies.

My plate

My plate

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 10 minutes
  • Serves: 3 normal people [I always have to put in normal because Chris eats everything in the world]

Ingredients

  • 4 bell peppers
  • 1/4 red cabbage
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 1 package boneless skinless chicken
  • soy sauce
  • sesame teriyaki [optional: you can use whatever sauce you would like]
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions

  • Put your rice in the rice cooker and get that ready to go
  • Once rice is done, toss some rice vinegar and sesame seeds in there and mix around, let it
  • Cut up all your veggies
So beautiful

So beautiful

  • Cut the chicken into thin strips on a different board if you are eating meat

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  • Put oil into a wok and throw some crushed or cut garlic in there. Then, add the vegetables to the wok. Pour soy sauce and any other sauces you would like to flavor the veggies
Still pretty

Still pretty

  • Once the vegetables are cooked and flavored to your desire, throw some oil and garlic in another smaller saucepan and heat it up. Then put the chicken strips into this pan and cook. This only takes 5 minutes max. Toss with soy sauce, teriyaki, and sesame seeds

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  • Once your chicken is done, assemble plates. Load the bottom with rice, top it with vegetables, and then some chicken (if you are eating chicken). It’s good to go!
My plate

My plate

Chris' plate

Chris’ plate

Again such an easy dish to make and such an easy dish to eat too! It’s delicious, nutritious, and filling. It also has beautiful colors if you use different peppers. Enjoy with whatever vegetable and seasoning you have. This is a great dish to stay hungry and fit! Cheers!

[HEALTHY] Fast-Food — the Asian way

I know this sounds sketchy, but LISTEN UP! 

Chris, during his time teaching in South Korea, lived on kimbap which is something you will find in any Korean gas station, 7-11 type stores, and groceries. Images probably cross your mind of seaweed fried twinkies (which even makes me gag), but no, it’s so much more than that.

How to Make Onigiri (おにぎり) / Omusubi (おむすび)

My first experience with kimbap was the Japanese version. This version is called onigiri (or omusubi)–pretty much the same thing. It’s basically a rice ball, filled with magical goodness. I first experienced this in no other than my hometown CITY of Santa Monica. It was a hole in the wall we passed tons of times until one time we didn’t. We stepped inside, speculative, and Chris immediately perked up at the fact of omusubi being served here in Santa Monica! It seemed pretty legit too. This place is called Sunny Blue, and they provide fresh omusubi filled with various ingredients: miso beef, mushroom, pickled plum, etc.

No joke, we literally hit this place up at least twice a week. Sorry, dog-walking cash…

So, ever since my experience with omusubi, I crave for it often. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a substitute yet here in Boulder, but to be honest, I haven’t looked hard yet. Thus, when everywhere else fails you DO IT YOURSELF! …and depend on your partner for instruction.

SO. Look below for a recipe, although the stuffing can be altered to whatever you want. We just chose to go with spinach and mushrooms because that’s what the fridge gods had in store for us:

  • 1 cup sticky rice
  • 1 huge portobella mushroom
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • Sprinkle of sesame seeds
  • Nori seaweed 
  • Ton of soy sauce

First, you need to make some sticky white rice. I don’t care how you do it, just do it.

Then, stir-fry the mushrooms and spinach in a pool of soy sauce…(and garlic)

Once those are cooked to perfection, in comes the mastery. That’s when I stepped out and Chris stepped in to handle the rolling of it.
DISCLAIMER: We didn’t have the right saran-wrap to shape them the proper way, so we attempted to use wax paper (fail with hot rice) and then settled with our hands. So you’re getting the ghetto version. Which may be what you want 😉

First, lay out the rice so you can embed the wonderful stuffing ingredients inside

Then, roll it up (with your hands or with plastic wrap) into a ball and pour sesame seeds on top.

Once that’s done, you put the nori seaweed on the rice ball to wrap it around for that delicious crunch. And voila–DELICIOUS.

Enjoy and comment if you have any questions!

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